Most of us are right in the middle of the craziest, busiest, most stressful, mulled wine and mince pie infused time of the year.
Left to our own devices we go into survival mode in the hope that we have some chance of getting everything done, making everyone else happy and are generally able to be a great festive parent, partner, child, sibling, friend and possibly, most dreaded of all, host.
Not only does self-care and looking after ourselves go out the window, our coping mechanisms tend to drag us in completely the opposite direction.
Two bottles of prosecco and 17 pigs in blankets anyone?
And that’s after 11.5 months of one of the strangest and most turbulent years many of us have ever experienced.
Is it just me that’s feeling psychologically exhausted by 2016?
Often at this time of year, I find myself really looking forward to the first of Jan with it’s gold-plated permission to abstain, cleanse and generally get my shit back together after the explosion that is Christmas.
But, take a moment now to imagine a scenario where you could more calmly and mindfully sashay into and out of the Christmas period, without the feeling that you’ve been through 10 rounds with The Christmas Grinch. And lost an ear in the process.
The brutal truth is that ……wait for it……..
It’s not compulsory for you to martyr yourself in the name of Christmas!
There you go, I’ve gone and said it.
In fact my take on it is that, whenever life gets even busier/tougher/stressier (I know this isn’t a word but it works) than normal, when we feel the need to ramp up from giving 100% of ourselves to 110%, this is not the time to abandon all good intentions and, instead, is precisely the time when we’re most in need of some self-care.
Making time for TLC is what will not only help us get through tricky times unscathed but also, more importantly, give us the energy to be able to step back and enjoy, rather than just survive, these precious moments.
So, my question to you is….
Why wait til January? What’s wrong with giving yourself some TLC right now?
What are the small things that you can do differently or place a bit more attention on which could make a big difference to:
- how you feel right now?
- how much energy you have left for the Big Day?
- how quickly you’re able to recover, mentally and physically, afterwards?
- how you feel going into 2017?
I’ve offered up some thoughts/ideas below and I’m not going to claim that any of them are rocket science. In themselves they are super simple, the tricky bit is making the choice to do some of them – and that is entirely up to you.
The real gem here is acknowledging that you always have the opportunity to look after yourself (not just in January) and that there are always small conscious choices which you’re free to make and prioritise in order to feel good.
So, here are my four simple tips for showing yourself a bit more love in crazy times….
1. Balance it out.
The temptation is to write off the latter part of December. All bets are off. Permission to go wild, to abandon all good habits/intentions and just hope you live to tell the tale.
But there’s always an opportunity to balance it out.
Boring, boring, boring. But true.
This post is not about taking all the fun out of Xmas and becoming a paragon of virtue, no-one likes one of those.
But it is about being selective about what, when, how you have fun and trying to save a little bit in the tank so you don’t finish the season completely on empty.
- Drink lots and lots of water. How about at least as much water as wine? (See how your bladder likes that!)
- Make sure you have the same weight of nutritious food in the fridge as you do goose fat and sausages.
- Pick your parties. Take a look at your diary and work out which nights you’ll approach with some wild abandon and then where you’ve got an opportunity to play it cool.
- Don’t abandon exercise. It doesn’t matter if you can’t do as much as normal, just keep moving a little bit. Dancing counts.
2. Know yourself.
When things get a bit crazy, it’s really important to have our emotional radar switched on and to take the time to regularly tune in to it.
How am I feeling? Am I close to the edge? Can I take on more? Will more prosecco and less sleep work well for me at this point (the answer might be yes!)?
Five minutes is all it takes. Step back from ‘doing the do’ to try to grab a moment of something akin to calm reflection. Even if you genuinely only have time to do this while on the toilet – at the craziest times, you still have to go to the toilet.
How to use your 5 mins:
- Check in with how you’re feeling – are you surviving or about to go under? Take action accordingly.
- Focus your attention on some deep breaths. I’ve heard that ensuring you have time to keep breathing is pretty critical. It also automatically gives you something easy to focus on and calms your nervous system.
- Ask yourself whether what you’re doing right now is the most important thing you could be doing? (You don’t need to count the act of going to the toilet in this one.) Reprioritise as appropriate.
- Scribble down the things that are on your mind. Don’t ponder them, just write. Getting things out of your head and onto paper is an extremely effective way of clearing your space.
Sometimes pausing is the most helpful thing we can do in order to get more done.
3. Protect your precious time
Time is one of the few things in this world we can’t buy more of so I’m a huge fan of using it consciously, wisely, and protecting it at all costs. And, as things get busier, the more important this becomes.
My 3 P’s of time management……Prioritise, Plan, Protect. If you skip one of these stages then, brace yourself, here comes a bucket load of chaos and stress.
Prioritise – what is the most important thing to get done right now, today, this week? While you’re doing that task nothing else matters, permission to park everything else. If you can find that level of focus then you’re likely to do it well and efficiently. Winner.
Plan – it doesn’t matter whether you’re at work or not, treat your priorities as if they’re business meetings. They’re important, they have a dedicated time slot in your diary, you’re committed to them and, as a result, they will get done.
Protect – once you’ve made your plan then do whatever you can to stick to it and protect that time slot. Think very carefully before you decide, in the moment, to get side-tracked into doing something different – chances are you had it right when you made your original plan. Also, don’t give away your time too easily – if it ain’t a priority, it ain’t getting in (your diary).
4. One act of self-love
This is my favourite. What can you do today to give yourself some self-love?
Pick one small thing which you know will make you feel good, which will help clear your mind, which feels a bit indulgent, something which you wouldn’t normally make time for.
I hope that something immediately pops into your mind – the more personal it is to your needs and what brings you pleasure the better.
But, if not, here are some ideas……..take a bath with candles, sit down to read a good book/magazine, go for a mindful walk, cook something nice for yourself (or, even better, get someone else to cook for you), take time to dress nicely or do hair/makeup, get a manicure, listen to your favourite music, have a long phone chat with a friend.
Carve out the necessary period of time, put it in your diary, don’t let it move and then fully immerse yourself in enjoying every moment of it. Then do it again soon.
Some say ‘fake it til you make it’. In terms of how you feel about yourself, I really believe this approach can work – if you regularly do things which suggest that you love yourself then your brain will eventually start to believe and feel that you genuinely do!
So, there you have it, my Christmas sermon. Don’t wait until January to think about looking after yourself.
- Consciously choose to find some balance
- Tune in to your emotional radar
- Use your time wisely
- Practice some self-love
Make now the perfect time to show yourself some festive love and glide past the Christmas Grinch into 2017.
Peace on earth and goodwill to all men.
(As originally published on the amazing The Motherload – thank you MOLO!)
Feel like you need a bit of help to prioritise looking after yourself in 2017, The Mental Movement is ready to be at your service. Read more here about what I do and how you can work with me.